In the Urbane Forager's calendar October and November means it's time to gather Sweet Chestnuts. Autumn is always our favourite time for walks out in the New Forest but Chestnut trees can be found in many places within the city too and often it is easier to spot them when they fall onto the pavement.
You can carefully remove the spiny hulls with your shoes or boots and it is always special when the shiny mahogany brown nuts pop out - you are the first person to ever witness this magical moment.
We only collect the largest, fattest of the nuts we find. We always try to find the one tree in an area, which provides the biggest nuts and they we comb the area to find and collect the cream of the crop to take home and roast. You can freeze your hoard if you wish to preserve them for later.
We pierce and roast our chestnuts over a small fire or BBQ but you can do them in an oven (always make a small cut in each shell prior to cooking or they will explode). I find that the flames help to burn the shells and pith, making them more easy to peal, which can be a really tricky job. Roast Chestnuts are the perfect accompaniment to a chilly Autumn night or to nibble while watching fireworks on Guy Fawkes night.
It is easy to make all kinds of things out of Chestnuts, even flour to bake with; clearly you need patience to peel off all the shells and pithy skin. My Mum used to cook Chestnut Tarts (like jam tarts but filled with Chestnut purée) as an Autumnal treat. This year I made a "Chestnut roasting tin" so that we could also cook them in the hot ashes of our garden fire chimney.
Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list.
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or even Amazon.
the Urbane Forager: Fruit and Nuts for Free
Author: Alan Gibson